According to one senior Democratic lawmaker, there???¬??s a growingdiscomfort among pro-defense Democrats about linking a $50 billion Iraqmeasure to troop withdrawal.
???¬?We have to come off this lack of funding for the military operations,???¬??the lawmaker said. ???¬?We have to continue the funding. We don???¬??t want tolook like we???¬??re against troop funding. ... We should separate thefunding discussion from the rest of the war.???¬??
Since when did it become "pro-defense" to continue a war that increases our dependence on foreign oil, and holds us hostage to long-term Mideast involvement, and therefore puts our country at greater risk of an attack? That's not "pro-defense" -- it's called being Bush lite.
Republicans blocked a Democratic measure that would give funding to Bush for the war only if he redeploys troops from Iraq. The Democrats blocked a Republican measure to fund the war without any timetables for troop withdrawal.
Democrats are now showing some spine -- at least at the moment:
Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,said this week that if Congress cannot pass legislation that ties warmoney to troop withdrawals, they would not send Bush a bill this year.
Instead,they would revisit the issue upon returning in January, pushing thePentagon to the brink of an accounting nightmare and deepeningDemocrats' conflict with the White House on the war.
Inthe meantime, Democrats say, the Pentagon can eat into its $471 billionannual budget without being forced to take drastic steps.
"The days of a free lunch are over," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Either we just took a dramatic step towards ending the war, or we are being set up by Pelosi and Reid for a huge let-down when they cave in early next year.
White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton and White House Counsel Harriet Miers have been held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas issued in connection with the US attorney firing scandal. This move by the House Judiciary Committee, headed by John Conyers, now brings the matter to a full House vote. If passed in the House, the contempt charges will move to the Senate. If the Senate votes in favor, the two White House members could face fines and jail time (between one and twelve months) for obstructing the work of Congress.
This morning, the New York Times Editorial Board supported Conyers' contempt decision, and wrote that the White House wouldn't be in this mess if they didn't use the Justice Department as their political arm:
They had no right to refuse. Congress has the legal power to callwitnesses to testify, and presidential advisers are not exempt.Conservative lawyers like Bruce Fein agree that the administration???¬??sclaims of executive privilege are baseless. If the White House believesspecific matters are privileged, it needs to make those limited claims.
Such defiance is not only illegal, it has seriously obstructedCongress???¬??s ability to get to the bottom of the United States attorneysscandal. It now appears that the scandal reaches beyond the ninefederal prosecutors who were fired for refusing to allow their officesto be politicized. It seems quite possible that others, includingGeorgia Thompson, a civil servant in Wisconsin, and Don Siegelman, aformer governor of Alabama, were put in prison ???¬??? and Mr. Siegelmanremains there ???¬??? to help Republicans win elections.
Just asimportant, by ignoring valid Congressional subpoenas, Ms. Miers and Mr.Bolten are dangerously challenging Congress???¬??s power ???¬??? and the carefulsystem of checks and balances established by the founders.
Is it just me who thinks this, or are Henry Waxman and John Conyers the only House members actually doing anything?
I feel embarrassed that I actually call this good news. But due to the fashion that the Democrats have handled this Iraq issue since last year's election, this is definitely a move in the right direction:
Senate Democrats might force Republicans to wage a filibuster if theGOP wants to block the latest Iraq withdrawal bill, aides and senatorssaid Tuesday.
That could set the stage for a dramaticend-of-the-year partisan showdown, which Democrats hope will help themturn voter frustration with Congress and the stalemate over Iraq intoanger with the Republican Party.
In layman's terms, until now the Democrats had been allowing their Iraq bills to be blocked, after which the Democrats would give up. This time, they are calling the Republican's bluff, and allowing the minority party in Congress to stage a true filibuster. It would last all night, pretty much endangering the GOP's chances in 2008. "This incumbent stayed all night to help prevent the war from ending," some Democratic challenger could say.
Again, in reality, it won't amount to squat. But it is an effort. Congress will actually have to stay up past its bedtime.
A voice that played a pivotal role in outing the actions of Alberto Gonzales in the US Attorney firing scandal is now all of a sudden going the other way.
This week, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) voted in favor of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, despite the fact that Mukasey refused to say whether waterboarding was torture. Now, Feinstein is backing immunity for telecommunications companies that handed over their customers' personal information to the NSA as part of the Administration's warrantless eavesdropping program:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein saidThursday that she favors legal immunity for telecommunicationscompanies that allegedly shared millions of customers' telephone ande-mail messages and records with the government, a position that couldlead to the dismissal of numerous lawsuits pending in San Francisco.
In a statement at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, whichis considering legislation to extend the Bush administration'selectronic surveillance program, Feinstein said the companies shouldnot be "held hostage to costly litigation in what is essentially acomplaint about administration activities."
Why are Feinstein and so many other Democrats scared of a President with a 32% approval rating? Feinstein should know that there is a primary system -- and progressives will use it to oust certain lawmakers with a habit of being Bush lite.
With a record percentage of the public opposing the war, House Democrats are bringing the Iraq withdrawal bill up yet again -- and again, although it will pass, don't expect the measure to get anywhere in the Senate. Even if it does, expect a quick veto:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the bill callingfor the immediate withdrawal of troops at a Thursday press conference,saying its language will parallel the Iraq supplemental spending billthat President Bush vetoed in May.
It would require withdrawal to begin immediately on passage, with a goal of completing the withdrawal in a year.
Thebill will also veer into the debate on torturing those suspected ofterrorism by setting into law the rules in the Army Field Manual, whichdoes not allow torture. That would ban intelligence agencies, such asthe CIA, from using controversial practices like waterboarding, atechnique that simulates drowning.
Pelosi gave no indicationthat she expected the measure to fare better than previous Iraqwithdrawal bills, which have either been vetoed by President Bush orhave not even passed the Senate.
And once again, after it gets stalled in the Senate or vetoed by Bush, Democrats will forget about it for another three months and try again. How about some spine for a change? They need to bring this bill up each day in both Houses of Congress, forcing Republicans to cast as many votes as possible on it. Then in 2008, during a number of contested Senate battles, the Democratic challengers can say, "Senator X over here voted 125 times to keep the Iraq war going."
If I could write the rules, I would make seniority work against lawmakers. The less years you spend in Congress, the higher committee rank you get. It would discourage legislators from staying in Washington -- because the longer you stay, the more your power diminishes.
Of course, that is not how things work. Seniority is an asset that lawmakers use to convince voters to reelect them. Once reelected, those same lawmakers take their laundry list of promises, set them on fire and protect the status quo of broken government.
As a matter of principle, you cannot alter the status quo without showing some spine. On Thursday, by failing to filibuster the nomination of Michael Mukasey, Democrats showed no spine, no desire for change and no inability to fulfill a promise made to voters one year ago:
The Senate confirmed Michael B. Mukaseyas attorney general Thursday night, approving him despite Democraticcriticism that he had failed to take an unequivocal stance against thetorture of terrorism detainees.
The 53-to-40 vote made Mr. Mukasey, a former federal judge, the thirdperson to head the Justice Department during the tenure of PresidentBush, placing him in charge of an agency that members of both partiessay suffered under the leadership of Alberto Gonzales.
Six Democrats joined 46 Republicans and one independent in approvingthe judge, with his backers praising him as a strong choice to restoremorale at the Justice Department and independently oversee federalprosecutions in the final months of the Bush administration.
Sixty votes are needed to end debate and force a vote on the nomination. There were not 60 'yea' votes present, meaning that many who even opposed Mukasey voted for cloture. Where was their spine? We all know that if it were the Republicans in our shoes, they would have had the courage to block the nomination.
This is why seniority rules hurt democracy -- nothing gets done, and the status quo is protected.
Oh, and by the way, I hope Connecticut voters are happy. Republicans like him so much that they allotted him five minutes of time to speak on their behalf about Mukasey:
A new bill introduced by Democrats in the Senate today would makeRepublican attempts to challenge voters' eligibility based on thetime-tested technique of using returned mail illegal.
The voter suppression technique, which has come to be known as "caging," has been practiced by Republicans for decades,but received additional attention for its role in the U.S. attorneyfirings scandal. Timothy Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove whoreplaced one of the fired prosecutors in Arkansas, was forced to defendhis role in an alleged 2004 caging scheme when he worked for theRepublican National Committee. (We ran down the evidence that Griffinwas involved in a 2004 scheme to block African-Americans in Floridafrom voting in a story this June.) Those questions, along with the circumstances of Griffin's appointment, eventually led to his resignation.
Still trying to get a grasp on what caging means? Here is a better explanation:
Vote caging is an illegal tactic to suppress minorities from voting by having their names purged from voter rolls when they fail to respond to registered mail sent to their homes. The Republican National Committee signed a consent decree in 1986 stating they would not engage in the practice after they were caught suppressing votes in 1981 and 1986.
The days of the pathetically lazy 109th Congress are long gone. And although the Democrats have failed in their pledge to end the war, they have at least decided to work overtime to pass spending bills in order to fund the federal government:
House members hoping to spend quality time with their families duringthe holiday season got some bad news this week: they may be inWashington days before both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In an e-mail sent by a House Democrat and obtained by The Hill, the newHouse schedule calls for votes potentially through Nov. 17, theSaturday before Thanksgiving. The lower chamber will then reconvene onDec. 4, with leadership hoping that Dec. 11 will be the last week ofthe session.
It's about time. These people get free health care and more days off than the average American worker. Surely they can handle working a few days overtime.